The Toronto Maple Leafs
are shooting less and enjoying it more.
For the second time in three nights, the Leafs were outshot but made the most of their opportunities. Two nights after beating Nashville 3-1 with only 15 shots on goal, the Leafs did even better — scoring six times on just 16 shots as they demolished the New York Rangers 6-2 on Thursday night for their fourth consecutive victory.
The Leafs scored nine goals in just 31 shots while winning their last two games.
''Obviously, we'd like to get more than we had these last two games,'' captain Mats Sundin said of the low shots total. ''We've got to produce more shots than 16 if we want to be successful, but at least we're not giving up the high-quality scoring chances. Not too many, anyway.''
No one was more accurate than Nik Antropov, who had a natural hat trick and scored on all three of his shots. He has five goals in three games after going 10 straight without one.
''It was (10) games without a goal, but I didn't think about it a lot. I did pretty much everything the same, it just didn't go in,'' he said. ''Nobody can go the whole the 82 games scoring every game or every second game.''
It was Antropov’s second career hat trick. The other came on Dec. 20, 1999, at Florida.
“Almost exactly eight years," he said. "I remember it though.”
Matt Stajan ( 700K ) and Mats Sundin ( 700K ) gave Toronto a 2-0 lead in the first period on only four shots, but that advantage was gone before the intermission. After Antropov scored twice in the second period ( 700K , 700K ) and once in the third ( 700K ), Alex Steen completed the scoring for Toronto ( 700K ). Vesa Toskala finished with 23 saves.
Defensemen Dan Girardi ( 700K ) and Fedor Tyutin ( 700K ) got New York even late in the first period, scoring power-play goals off passing plays by Scott Gomez and Chris Drury. But that wasn't enough to prevent the Rangers' fourth loss in five home games.
New York was outscored 9-2 in consecutive home losses this week to Carolina and Toronto. The Rangers play Friday at Atlanta, the team they swept out of the first round of last season's playoffs.
“You always feel good about yourself when you come from behind and tie the hockey game. It didn't help us much,'' Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr said. ''We know we didn't play very well. Tomorrow we get another chance to prove we are a good hockey club.''
Rangers coach Tom Renney wouldn’t say which goalie he plans to start against the Thrashers. Renney pulled Henrik Lundqvist after he allowed four goals on 10 shots in the first two periods; Steve Valiquette was beaten twice on six shots in the third. Lundqvist has given up four goals in back-to-back games after going in a row without surrendering more than three.
''I don't know the reason,'' Lundqvist said. ''I know I have to play better. ... The first one was a bad rebound. The other three were not bad goals. I need to work harder in practice and get my game back.''
Canadiens 4, Bruins 2
A visit to Boston was just the tonic for the struggling Canadiens, who got a goal and an assist from Chris Higgins to end a three-game losing streak and beat the Bruins for the seventh straight time.
''I can't explain it,'' Higgins said. ''I don't know why we do so well against them. It was huge, we needed to get back on the winning side. We were down a little bit ... the city and the fans were a little down on us.''
Montreal has outscored the Bruins 28-11 during the seven-game winning streak.
''Maybe we should play more games against them,'' Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau said. ''We still have four more games against them, and I'm sure they'll be ready.
Higgins, Kyle Chipchura and Tomas Plekanec scored goals on the first six shots of the game against rookie goalie Tuukka Rask. He got the call in place of injured starter Tim Thomas, who was injured late in regulation time during Wednesday’s overtime loss in New Jersey.
“It wasn’t the start we wanted,” Boston forward Glen Metropolit said. “They got a couple of goals on us and we had to fight back the whole game.”
The road-weary Bruins, who finished a six-game trip in New Jersey on Wednesday and head to Toronto for a game on Saturday, rallied in the second period on goals by Phil Kessel and P.J. Axelsson. But Mathieu Dandenault added an insurance goal with 6:45 remaining in the third period.
''You can't complain about the schedule,'' Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. ''We are a better team than that but we have to put this behind us because we have another tough road trip ahead.''
Higgins now has four goals in his first four games, and Montreal rookie Ryan O'Byrne had two assists in his first NHL game.
Lightning 2, Hurricanes 1 | Video
Johan Holmqvist’s teammates were more upset than he was that Holmqvist missed a shutout by just 14 seconds. The Tampa Bay goaltender was more than content with his team’s third victory in four meetings with the Southeast Division-leading Hurricanes.
''I didn't really care, as long as we win the game,'' Holmqvist said after his 23-saver performance at the St. Pete Times Forum. ''It was a little different game. There was not a lot of action the first period and a half. Then they had some good chances on the power play. The guys played really hard in front of me the whole night long.''
Holmqvist, who stopped in-close shots by Justin Williams and Cory Stillman ( 700K ) during a Carolina power play late in the second period, lost what would have been his second shutout in 77 NHL games when Cory Stillman scored ( 700K ).
''You always want to follow through on that and it didn't happen,'' Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said. ''I thought we did a very good job defensively. When they had chances, Homer was fantastic.''
Holmqvist's only shutout came last Feb. 1 at Carolina, 45 games ago.
The Lightning got goals from two of their big guns as they won for the third straight time after losing six in a row. Vincent Lecavalier opened the scoring when he beat Cam Ward during a power play at the 16-minute mark of the second period ( 700K ), and Martin St. Louis added a goal with 7:15 remaining in regulation ( 700K ).
''It's always a challenge when you're coming in here and playing the Lightning,'' said goalie Cam Ward, who made 32 saves. ''For the most part, we did a pretty good job on not giving them the high-quality scoring chances like we have in previous games against them.''
Carolina has lost four of its last six.
''It's frustrating when you don't score, especially in a close game,'' said Stillman, who had four shots in the third period and six overall. ''I had two or three quality chances in the crease, and they don't go in. I needed to score tonight.''
Canucks 5, Predators 2 | Video
Nashville had the good fortune to play Vancouver on one of Roberto Luongo’s rare nights off. Unfortunately for the Predators, Daniel Sedin didn’t take the evening off. Sedin scored a pair of third-period goals as the Canucks won at Nashville.
Sedin gave the Canucks a 3-2 lead at 8:11 of the third period ( 700K ), taking a pass from twin brother Henrik, skating through the slot and beating Dan Ellis low to the stick side, just inside the left post.
“The Sedins have some great chemistry, and playing with Marcus Naslund helps,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “They are definitely one of the elite lines in the National Hockey League right now.”
Sedin struck again at 12:26 ( 700K ), scoring on a high shot from close range as Ellis went down to the ice. Trevor Linden added a shorthanded goal into an empty net with 38 seconds remaining.
Sanford finished with 26 saves and won his third decision without a loss.
“I think we didn’t have our legs in the first there, but the second we got a goal and the third we played a really good game,” Daniel Sedin said. “Curtis kept us in the game and from then on, we really took over the game.”
Nashville’s Jed Ortmeyer opened the scoring 3:09 into the game ( 700K ), beating Curtis Sanford over the shoulder with a slap shot from of the right circle. The Canucks tied it at 10:19 when Alex Burrows' shot from the middle of the right circle beat Ellis low to his left side ( 700K ).
The Predators took the lead again when Martin Erat fired a shot from high in the slot that beat Sanford low to his glove side with 1:48 left in the period ( 700K ).
“I like shooting from that spot – since I am a left-handed shot it gives me a good opportunity to get a one-timer off,” Erat said.
Trotz said his team missed a chance to put the Canucks away in the opening 20 minutes.
“I thought we came out great in the first period and had plenty of chances, we just didn’t bury our chances,” Trotz said. “Sanford made some good saves as well. If we would have scored then and pulled away we might be looking at a different result. Unfortunately, it was a lot closer early than it should have been and we just couldn’t pull away.”
Taylor Pyatt tied it at 2-2 on a power play at 7:48 of the second period ( 700K ), and the Canucks felt good going into the final 20 minutes all even.
“We feel pretty comfortable with the tie going into the third right now,” Daniel Sedin said. “Our goalies are playing great.”
Kings 8, Sabres 2 | Video
With rookie goaltender Jonathan Quick making his NHL debut, the Kings wanted to do everything they could to make him comfortable. To say they succeeded is an understatement.
The Kings had four goals in the first period — more than they had scored in any of their last 11 games — and led 7-0 midway through the second to coast past the Sabres, making Quick a winner in his first NHL start. Dustin Brown had two goals ( 700K, 700K ) and an assist and defenseman Tom Preissing scored twice ( 700K) on the power play.
"We wanted to make sure we put our best foot forward so he could have an easier night,” Preissing said.
Quick, who played because of injuries to Jason LaBarbera and Jean-Sebastien Aubin, survived an early Buffalo power play before the Kings put the game away early. He faced only 17 shots.
“When the team jumps out to a 4-0 lead, it makes it a little easier back there,” said the 21-year-old, the ninth goalie to play for the Kings since the start of the 2006-07 season.
The Kings had their biggest offensive output since an 8-6 home victory over Atlanta on Jan. 19, 2006 — the night Luc Robitaille became their career goal leader.
Derek Armstrong ( 700K ) and Jaroslav Modry ( 700K ) scored their first goals of the season, Anze Kopitar had a career-high four assists, and Michael Cammalleri had a goal ( 700K ) and two assists.
Drew Stafford ( 700K ) and Thomas Vanek ( 700K ) scored for the Sabres, who lost for the third time in four games after a five-game winning streak.
"I don't think it can [get worse]," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "There wasn't anything that was good in the game."
Material from wire services and Anaheim's team Web site was used in this report.